Artists celebrate season with CDs

This year, a typically star-studded slate of artists has released Christmas albums, with discs from Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Sugarland and David Archuleta.

TORONTO — This year, a typically star-studded slate of artists has released Christmas albums, with discs from Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Sugarland and David Archuleta. But who does the holiday season better than Canadians? Canadian Press music writer Nick Patch looks at this year’s homegrown holiday music offerings.

Johnny Reid, Christmas

With Johnny Reid’s gravelly croon, he seems a natural to belt out some gathered-round-the-fire Christmas tunes.

And indeed, Christmas showcases the Scotland-born, Toronto-raised country singer’s slow-burn take on such well-worn holiday classics as I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Little Drummer Boy.

But while some holiday CDs are best-suited for that torpid period after the family has tucked into a tryptophan-filled turkey, Reid’s disc is considerably more lively.

Justin Hines, Season’s Greetings

It’s nearly impossible for a Christmas CD to avoid cheese and irony entirely, but that would seem to be the goal of Justin Hines’ earthy Season’s Greetings.

The arrangements are spare but fresh, with an organic, folky vibe that highlights the Newmarket, Ont., native’s expressive voice.

Opening tune Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas establishes the disc’s formula: Hines is accompanied only by a finger-picked acoustic guitar. The listener waits for the sweeping strings to creep in, but they never come.

Other Canadian Christmas releases out this year include:

• The Canadian Tenors’ confidently titled The Perfect Gift mixes traditional tunes with originals, including songs written by Canadian superproducer David Foster and Sarah McLachlan, who contributes a winning vocal to the gorgeous Wintersong.

• The front cover of Aliqua’s disc All I Want shows the eight members of the Vancouver choral group dressed in angelic white, posed as mannequins in a silvery storefront window. The actual music, while meticulous, has more life.

• In the spirit of the season, a few Canadian artists are putting out holiday tunes for charity. Toronto hardcore band F***** Up is issuing a cover version of Do They Know It’s Christmas? with guests including preppy indie favourites Vampire Weekend, snarky comedian David Cross, art-rock stalwarts Yo La Tengo and Wu-Tang Clan rapper GZA.

Meanwhile, reigning Canadian Idol champ Theo Tams has teamed with Toronto singer-songwriter Ali Slaight for a version of Do You Hear What I Hear? with proceeds going to War Child Canada. And Tom Jackson also put out a charity song, called The Gift.

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